After three years of cancelled vacations, we are finally enjoying a long-wished-for holiday: a visit to Egypt and Jordan. We've already visited Cairo and Alexandria—two fascinating cities—ten years ago. But we've never been further inland. This time, we will get to see some important archeological sites along the Nile and visit the ancient city of Petra in Jordan. By the time you read this journal entry, we should have touched-down on the African continent.
Egypt holds a complex fascination for us. For most of 2020 and 2021, my husband, Robert Perdziola, spent 18 hours a day hunched over his drafting table, designing the sets and costumes for the ambitious Nineteenth Century ballet, The Pharaoh's Daughter for the Mariinsky Theatre in Saint Petersburg, Russia. Russia is one of the few countries on earth with the resolve and the muscle to produce such a demanding ballet (with all the bells and whistles). Bob really designed a feast for the eyes.
Just weeks before the Spring 2022 premiere, Russia invaded Ukraine. The American creative team (including the Russian-born American choreographer, Alexei Ratmansky) left Russia in protest. (The State Department advised Americans to leave, too.) By this point, Bob's designs had been entirely finished and submitted to the company. In fact, most of the scenery and costumes had already been built.
The company put the opening on ice—an indefinite pause. There was a hope that the war would end quickly. Eventually, after waiting a year, the Mariinsky premiered the ballet this Spring, without choreographer Alexei and without designer Bob. There was nothing Alexei nor Bob could do to stop it. Naturally, Bob and I were unable to attend the premiere of this project into which he had poured his heart for two years. It was probably the largest and most important commission of Bob's career—a real gem in his list of credits. Of course, our disappointment is nothing compared to the death and suffering of Ukrainians since the war broke out.
So, in some strange way, this long-delayed vacation will serve as the capstone to The Pharaoh's Daughter project. Instead of an opening night in Saint Petersburg, we will walk amongst true Pharaonic relics—some of them 4,500 years old. Over the next several days, I'll be taking plenty of photos—and I hope to share them in this Journal, as my internet connection permits.
Every few decades, whenever an Egyptian archeological advancement makes the news, the world (including the decorative arts) renews its fascination with Egypt's aesthetic contributions to art history. The discovery of King Tut's tomb in 1922 spawned a revival of Egyptian-influenced decor, at this point coinciding with the start of the Art Deco movement. But that Egyptian revival was not the first one. Napoleon's campaigns in Egypt in the 1790's informed The Empire Movement, widely popular in Europe and America in the early Nineteenth Century. And the Mid-Victorian period (1850's - 1880's) saw a flourishing of Egyptian revival motifs in architecture and the decorative arts (think of those flamboyant Egyptian columns in Nineteenth Century theaters and department stores).
The bookends above, made in New York City in the 1920's, portray the Great Sphinx of Giza—gazing watchfully across the Nile. They are "bronze-clad," that is, cast of plaster composite and then electroplated with a solid bronze skin. Once clad, they could be patinated and finished as any bronze object would. In their day, bronze-clad objects were an affordable alternative to the more costly solid-bronze bookends or sculpture. Today, they are collectable themselves. Click on the photo above to learn more about them.
Stand-by for photos from Egypt. "In search of the Pharaoh's Daughter."
Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well! Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (www.LEOdesignNYC.com).
We also can be found in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (www.antiquecenterofstrabane.com).
Or call to arrange to visit our Pittsburgh showroom (by private appointment only). 917-446-4248